Secure File Transfer: Why not use email?

Maybe this has happened to you: it’s the middle of tax season and you need to get that one form back from your client. Why not just have them email it to you? It’s quick and easy; all they need is to send it as an attachment. The problem is tax documents contain sensitive information that identity thieves would love to get their hands on. Email as a secure file transfer method is a contradiction in terms. Consider the following:

  • Email is never really secure; even over HTTPS connections. For instance, if you or your clients are using a third-party email service, you can’t be certain that your data is encrypted while it resides on the server like with a file sharing service. Some email providers do not even encrypt emails during transmission which makes them even less secure.
  • Also, sending an email is like sending a postcard. Every person (or in this case, server) that handles the message can see its contents. Yes, this even includes PDF attachments.
  • Consider the other guy. Sure you might have gone to extra lengths to make your email system secure, but what about those in direct communication with you? Or the other people they are emailing? When you use a trusted email provider to transfer sensitive information, you can’t be certain that your recipients take the same amount of care. Once your information leaves your outbox, all bets are off.

Alternatives to email

Obviously, there are better ways to accomplish a secure file transfer. Here are just a few alternatives:

  • Just come into the office. This was never the most convenient option, but in 2021 it’s probably even less desirable. However, bringing paper documents into an office to be scanned and stored in-house is a very safe bet.
  • Encrypt your files using software like 7Zip or TrueCrypt. Whatever you choose to do with your digital file, encryption is a safe and secure way of keeping your file under lock and key. Just make sure you use a strong and client-specific password when setting the encryption. The recipient must also use encryption software to decompress the file.
  • Use popular commercial file-sharing tools. Many individuals already use Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud. While it might not be convenient to use in the long-term, if you’re in a pinch, these services can get the job done.
  • Use enterprise-level software like CCH Axcess Client Collaboration or CCH Axcess Portal to minimize the risk even further. Plan ahead and set up accounts for your clients before you need to use them so that when the time comes to get your files in a hurry, half your work is done.

Today’s collaboration tools provide so much more than just secure file transfer. To learn more about the benefits available, download our e-book, Beyond Portals: Best Practices for Client Collaboration.


Jonny Rector

Senior Technology Product Manager

All stories by: Jonny Rector